Elite ex-military operators are assigned to protect the CIA when terrorists attack a remote U.S. diplomatic compound on September 11, 2012. Six men had the courage to do what was right when surrounded by bureaucracy and red tape, so set off on an unsanctioned mission against astronomical odds to save American lives.
Based on the non-fiction book, 13 Hours, by author Mitchell Zuckoff and members of the Annex Security Team, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a war film with plenty of drama, action and emotional pull. Featuring strong performances from most of the cast, it’s certainly a compelling watch, but suffers a few narrative and creative issues along the way.
Michael Bay has his detractors but he does make cinema a grand and affecting spectacle at times. This is certainly the case with this amazing and compelling true story that highlights a little-known but very significant conflict. Bay brings his usual style and technique to the mix and for some that will affect the overall acceptance of this film, which would be a shame. In many ways this is the most personal and involving film he’s ever made. Whilst his slow-mo and angled shots might give this a fiction-feel, it depends on your initial approach the film that ultimately determines your overall satisfaction at the end.
John Krasinski does a remarkable job leading the line and hands in an affecting performance as Jack Silva. James Badge Dale is constantly the best thing in all of his films and steals his scenes as Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods. Pablo Schreiber delivers some affecting lighter moments amid the chaos as Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto and is a joy to watch. David Denman as Dave ‘Boon’ Benton and Dominic Fumusa as John ‘Tig’ Tiegen hand in solid support as does Max Martini as Mark ‘Oz’ Geist. Toby Stephens also hands in a great turn as Glen ‘Bub’ Doherty.
Problems arise in terms of the films focus. Having the antagonists fleshed out more would have done the overall story and the ensuing spectacle the world of good. You need context on both sides to give you a powerful push at the finale and that’s lacking here. There are also set-pieces that you’ll struggle to follow. The chaos and unpredictability of war is something that is hard to visualise in film. This certainly gives you an idea of just how hard and chaotic a shoot-out can be but as a viewer you need to be able to step back and follow what’s happening too. Bay frequently does this in his movies (I’m still trying to figure out who was fighting whom at the end of Transformers 2).
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a brave and very watchable account of men who fought back against overwhelming odds and deserves a big audience. It might run a tad too long but ultimately this is a captivating true story that features some great central performances. Bay will always divide audiences but taken on face value, 13 Hours is a strong and very important film that highlights the immense bravery and selfless nature of service men and women around the world.
Cast: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, Toby Stephens Director: Michael Bay Writer: Chuck Hogan (screenplay), Mitchell Zuckoff (book) Released By: Paramount Home Media Distribution Certificate: 15 Duration: 144 mins Release Date: 13th June 2016